April 20, 2018
Ah, springtime. It’s when the flowers are blooming, everything is starting to wake up (in a way), the heavy coats are dropped to the ground to be replaced by lighter coats, or hoodies, even, and the drinks are flowing like the pollen which, really, I’d rather avoid if possible. It’s also the season (why not?) for remembering past loves, from years gone by, and picturing those idyllic springtime moments with said past loves, when you walked through fields of flowers, hand-in-hand, never knowing that one would someday be forgotten. Here, of course, the past love I’ve talking about is this delicious drink, which if I remember right once won me a mixing glass in some contest or other. Happily, unlike some past love, this one is easy – and smart – to rekindle. It is springtime, after all.
The Flowering Grape
2 ounces Pierre Ferrand Cognac
1 ounce St-Germain elderflower liqueur
1/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 ounce raspberry vinegar syrup (I detail how to make raspberry vinegar syrup here)
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything. Shake well.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass. Laugh heartily.
January 12, 2018
Earlier in this wonderful month (just a week ago! If you’ve forgotten), I featured a drink here on the Spiked Punch, In The Treetops with Delamain L’Aigle XO Cognac. If you missed it, go check it out, or be sad – you don’t want to be sad, right? There, I talked about Cognac-as-cocktail-ingredient, and then, when thinking it over, decided I should back up the talk with a few more cocktails boasting Cognac as a base, and decided also to go next with one of the definitive Cognac cocktails, the classic Sidecar. Created overseas during Prohibition, the Sidecar was either first crafted at a bar in Paris or by an army colonel who drove around with a sidecar often. Or someone else entirely!
There are two Sidecar schools, but I lean towards the one that leans heavier on the Cognac and is less sweet. This road works even better when you’re able to use Hine Bonneuil 2005 Grande Champagne Cognac (a bottle of which I received in the mail recently, bless my lucky stars). Made from Ugni Blanc grapes only grown on the Hine vineyards, this limited-edition (track it down, if you can) Cognac has a great fresh grape, fig, orange, and herb nose, with more fig, and then apple, spice, honey and oak on the tongue, with an echo of pineapple and citrus. Scrummy stuff.
And, a perfect Cognac for the Sidecar, able to stand up to the lemon and mingle mightily with the requisite orange liqueur – here, I used a new one, made in my own Seattle, by Bernie Garcia, the owner of Moctezuma’s restaurant (it actually launches next week, but I figure you can wait a few days). It’s called Grandeza, and it uses bitter orange peels, agave nectar, and a bit of vanilla in a memorable manner. All together, this trio combines into a cocktail that you won’t forget, one that begins with bright citrus and spice, buoyed by fruit, herbal, and more. Oh, I know that many (maybe even myself in the past), have said that using a really fine Cognac like Hine Bonneuil 2005, in cocktails, even classics like the Sidecar, is foolish. However! I think once in a while, high-rolling your cocktails at home to lift them into legendary status is a good idea. You only live once, after all.
2 ounces Hine Bonneuil 2005 Grande Champagne Cognac
1/2 ounce Grandeza orange liqueur
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full of cracked ice. Add everything. Shake gently.
2. Strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass. Don’t ride a motorcycle while drinking, but do sit in a sidecar attached to a parked motorcycle, if you want.
January 5, 2018
It’s a smidge odd to say about one of the world’s revered sippers, but Cognac (especially in the states, I suppose) gets a little short shrift. Especially when it comes to cocktails. But consider this, friends – Cognac was a key player in the early days of cocktailing, and used as the base spirit in many classic drinks (the Sazerac, for one, but also a bunch of others), including ones that shifted for one reason or another to a different base. Both the shifts and the lack of Cognac-ing in modern cocktails is a shame, because the layers of flavors that unfold in good Cognacs when paired with the right pals make memorable drinks.
Let’s take this one, In The Treetops, for example! I was lucky enough (don’t curse me for it, especially not this early in the year) to receive a bottle of L’Aigle de Delamain XO Grande Champagne Cognac recently. The Eagle (L’Aigle equals The Eagle) is a delicious Cognac, aged in Limousin oak casks near the Charente River, and one that can be – and maybe should be! – savored solo, thanks to its bold-yet-graceful and complex-yet-approachable nature. It delivers floral and citrus essences on the nose, with a few nutty notes, too, and even more lush orange and fruit with a little chocolate and nuttiness in the unfolding flavor. It’s really as good as you’d expect from Delamain, who, if you don’t know, have been making renowned Cognacs since, oh, the 1600s. Or thereabouts!
When deciding to mix a cocktail with a Cognac this swell, I think keeping it fairly simple, letting the Cognac shine, adding only a few others players, is the way to go. I first thought I’d go with a drink from another lesser-known classic, Crosby Gaige’s Cocktail Guide and Ladies Companion (from the early 1940s), a drink called Rock a Bye Baby. And, admittedly, which you might guess from the title of this cocktail (if you know your nursery rhymes), I didn’t stray far from the original. I kept the same ingredients, Cognac (well, Crosby used brandy), sweet vermouth (I used Martini Gran Lusso Italian vermouth, 150th anniversary edition, made from Barbera and oak-aged Moscato, and with lovely fruit tones and a smidge of sweetness), and Bénédictine. But Crosby (who will forgive me I’m sure), had equal parts Cognac and sweet vermouth, and less Bénédictine. I wanted to let Delamain’s L’Aigle fly higher, so boosted the Cognac, drifted down the sweet vermouth, and upper the Bénédictine some to herbal-ize the edges more. The end result is a layered, sophisticated-in-the-best-way, cocktail, one that is a special treat, sure, but don’t you deserve to be treated? I think you do.
In The Treetops
2 ounces L’Aigle de Delamain XO Grande Champagne Cognac
1 ounce Martini & Rossi Gran Lusso Italian vermouth
1/2 ounce Bénédictine
1. Fill a cocktail shaker or mixing glass halfway full with cracked ice. Add everything. Stir well.
2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Enjoy life’s momentary luxuries.
December 4, 2015
I first found this warmer-upper in Mary Lou and Robert J. Heiss’s book Hot Drinks (Ten Speed Press, 2007), which you should invest in if you ever like to make a drink during the cold days – and why wouldn’t you? When we’re in the winter months (which we are in WA, for sure. If you’re in an island clime right now, well, you still might want a warm drink. Just for a change), a good hot drink is essential. Essential! If you don’t believe me, make the below the next time you feel that ol’ chill in your bones, and you’ll believe me double quick.
4 ounces pomegranate juice
2 ounces Cognac
1/2 ounce Chambord
Lemon slice, for garnish
1. Add the pomegranate juice to a small saucepan and, over medium heat, let the juice come to a simmer, but not a boil. Add the Cognac and Chambord, and lower the heat to medium-low. Heat, stirring once or twice, for 2 minutes, never letting it come to a boil.
2. Pour the mix into a glass or mug that can handle the heat. Garnish with the lemon slice.
October 13, 2015
The most famous novel by William P. McGivern (I think at least), and a book made into a sweet 1953 noir movie gem with all kinds of hardasses, The Big Heat is a classic revenge-and-corruption novel set in Philly and featuring a seriously tough cop-then-not-cop. It’s a good one. Good enough that I recently read it twice, and came across a nice roll of paragraphs that feature both Cognac and a swell Scotch line.
“I’m having a poker game tonight,” Stone told him, smoothing down his thinning hair. “We got plenty to drink?”
“Yes, there’s plenty.”
“Well, see there’s French Cognac. Judge McGraw is coming and he won’t drinks nothing else. You got money?”
Alex said no, smiling nervously.
“What’ll it be?” Larry said.
“Scotch and plain water. Make it a double. I guess I need a lift.”
–William P. McGivern, The Big Heat
March 31, 2015
We are now onto the third Cocktail Talk post featuring drinky talk from a book by Henry Kane. Please, please, for the love of all that’s dear to you, go back and read Part I and Part II, because you’ll only kick yourself when you miss them. Though the below may be my favorite, just cause you don’t see Sidecars come up in literature that often – and you need to savor them when they do!
I pursed my lips. I said, ‘Two sidecars.’
We sipped and looked at each other and set them down.
‘Let’s pay and leave,’ Edith said. ‘Mine stinks. And you look like yours does, too. Sacrilege. I’m going home. Got work.’
I put her into a taxi.
‘Bye, Red. Be seeing you.’
I walked home and went straight to the kitchen and fused lemon and Cointreau and cognac and in the living room I lapsed into beautiful beatitude.
–Henry Kane, Martinis and Murder
August 8, 2014
It’s wedding season, I do believe, evidenced by the lacy white outfits I keep seeing women wearing (usually accompanied by a bunch of other women in really oddly colored and shaped outfits – poor bridesmaids), and the number of gentlemen in tuxes with scared looks on their faces. Hah! I kid, I kid. I love weddings – they’re an especially nice kind of a party, a big ol’ celebration of two folks that hopefully are well-liked by everyone in attendance. In honor of the couples I know hitching it up this month (or right around this month), I’m going to whip up some Blushing Brides. These have to be made in batches of two, cause, well, I should think it’d be obvious.
The Blushing Bride, from Dark Spirits, Serves 2
12 fresh raspberries
6 lime wedges
4 ounces Cognac
2 ounces vodka
1 ounce Simple Syrup
1. Put the raspberries and 4 of the lime wedges into a cocktail shaker. Using a muddler, wooden spoon, or stiletto-heeled bridesmaid’s shoe, muddle well.
2. Fill the cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the Cognac, vodka, and simple syrup. Shake in a celebratory manner.
3. Strain the mix equally into two cocktail glasses through a fine strainer. Garnish each with a remaining lime wedge.
PS: I’ve seen drinks with this title that contain other ingredients. Avoid them. They are all awful
August 1, 2014
This refreshing number with a kick will not make you younger, or provide you (after you drink, say, three) with a vision that takes you to the fountain of youth. However, however, however, if you do consume three, with a good friend or two, my guess is you’ll start acting a bit more youthful, and feel perhaps more youthful, and have a generally awesome time. Maybe we shouldn’t ask for more?
The Ponce de León, from Dark Spirits
1 ounce Cognac
1/2 ounce white rum
1/2 ounce Cointreau
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
Chilled brut Champagne or sparkling wine
1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add the Cognac, rum, Cointreau, and grapefruit juice. Shake well.
2. Strain the elixir into a cocktail glass. Fill the glass not quite to the top with the Champagne. Serve with a youthful grin.